Before You Burn Your Bridges
Sometime right before I hit my twenties, I found myself in a rapid lifestyle change. One day I was just being a kid, having the so-called time of my life. The next I had finished The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt, with a dire urge to change my life for the better. I can’t exactly pinpoint how it all happened, but it was like one evening my old self disappeared into the night and promised not to come back until she was happier and healthier.
During this time, I learned from Pinterest, TED Talks, and self-improvement teachings that you’re allowed to walk away from toxicity. If something or someone is recklessly causing you irrevocable pain, discomfort, or stress, you’re allowed to put yourself first and do what’s best for your mindset, health, and future. Well, I took this lesson as an excuse to burn a bridge or two. You see, there’s two roads you can take to diverge negativity: the peaceful route or the drastic route.
I interpreted the advice I received as an excuse to heartlessly cut people and lifestyles out of my life. There were no calm conversations to be had. There were no apologies to ask for. There were absolutely no explanations. Instead there were subtweets, ghosting, and a whole lot of judgement. If you brought negativity to my life by way of gossip or lifestyle differences, not only did I not want you around, I passive aggressively let you know about it through the grapevine.
I didn’t take the road less traveled. It’s not uncommon to retreat to social media when emotions are flying high. It’s not abnormal to only tell one side of the story when people ask about friend breakups. It’s not unusual to want everyone on your side when you feel like the world is against you. But just because these actions aren’t unheard of, doesn’t make it right.
It’s too easy to act on our emotions.
It’s too easy to say they deserve it.
What’s hard is becoming a person that can leave a negative space gracefully. It’s difficult to treat the people who have hurt you with respect. And I don’t totally believe that you should consider being graceful and respectful for the sake of those people. Rather, we should try it for our own personal benefit. (At least at first. Then we’ll circle back and see how we feel about it. What do you say? Stick with me.)
Let me pause to mention that I know this is hard to hear let alone put into practice. I’ve always been a very emotional, sensitive, and unforgiving person. You bite, I bite back harder. That was my motto until maturity left me stranded on the side of the road warning that my travels would only become smoother if I’d just bite my tongue instead.
I’m now well into my twenties, and adulthood is coming at me full speed. One month my friend buys a house, the other has a baby, and I’m traveling the country for work. The next month I’m waking up in cold sweats about school reunions, friend’s weddings, and simple trips to the grocery store. I don’t exactly know when I began to realize this, but I finally figured out that no matter the life path I chose, I’d always have to encounter the people I burnt bridges with.
I truly believe if I acted more mature in choosing to walk away from people I no longer clicked with, facing my past wouldn’t be so anxiety provoking. When you know you’ve done nothing but the right thing, there’s nothing to feel wrong about. But when you choose to act up and stoop low, it’s no longer empowering that you’ve extracted negativity from your life. Because you fought fire with fire, and everyone got burnt in the process.
In the heat of the moment before we react, I think we have to try and imagine that no matter what a person does to us, our paths will cross again. The world has a funny way of playing games and this is his favorite one. When that time comes, you’re going to want to be able to hold your head up high happy with not only the decision you made, but the path you took.